Photo by Tianyi Ma on Unsplash

How to Use WordPress to Manage Your Fanlisting Collective

As time goes on – and PHPFanBase, Enthusiast, and BellaBuffs support becomes non-existent because people move on – you’re probably one of many fanlisting owners who need to find something new to automate your collective. I searched far and wide for something that I could use.

I was intimately familiar with WordPress – having developed sites with it for more than 10 years – and I knew something had to already exist that I could use for what I want to do. A lot of the legwork I conducted would probably confuse a casual web designer which I know makes up most of the fanlisting community.

With that said, if you can understand basic WordPress functionality, and know what to look for if I mention it in the tutorial, this could be a solution for you.

The Pros and Cons of Using WordPress

  • Your fanlistings will function independently while using the same files.
  • Your plugins are found in one location, rather than separate installations. As long as you activate the plugin on the main network, the other sites can use it. However, you’ll need to personalize each one individually.
  • No code snippets for stats. It may exist but I haven’t figured it out yet.
  • The Fanlistings (TFL) require a last updated date to show them that you’re maintaining the listing. The plugins I use don’t offer that. But I solved this by individually greeting new members via a quick blog post as they’re added.
  • Your external links can be controlled by WordPress. See Daft Punk’s Affiliates & Listed or Sunday Blues’ Joined and Affiliates pages. You can display them as text-only, or you can add buttons.
  • WordPress may periodically ask you to reenter the username and password associated with your site if you try and access an individual listing’s dashboard (even if you’re already logged into the main installation). Kinda annoying but better safe than sorry.
  • You’ll need to port your old fanlisting list over to the new site manually, but the plugin that I use – Participants Database – makes it fairly easy if you’re okay with copy and paste data entry. My preexisting listings were small so it was easy to bring them over.
    • I wouldn’t recommend this if you have a listing with a large number of members. There is a way to import data via CSV but I haven’t figured that out yet. I may experiment down the line to see how it works. If anything, this may be a good time to clean up your members’ list and encourage people to sign up again.

Let’s Begin! This is What You Need:


Installing WordPress

Here is the tutorial to install WordPress multisite. It’s pretty thorough. I don’t have much to add. Again, you should feel confident about WordPress. You should add plugins and activate your Akismet key during this part of the set up too.

My quick tips:

  • Make sure that you’re okay with the way your site is set up: either subdomains or subdirectories. Once you set it in WordPress, you can’t switch back and forth.
  • To keep your options open, I recommend that you set everything up as subdomains (you can add domains this way). If you choose this path, setting up a wildcard subdomain alias is IMPERATIVE. Don’t skip this. It’s fairly easy to do. NameCheap has a great tutorial on how to do it if you’re using cPanel. Check with your host to see what you may need to do.

So, now you’ve got everything installed.

WordPress is going to show you the main dashboard of your multisite. This dashboard controls every subsequent site that you create. It should look like this:

WP multisite dashboard
WP multisite dashboard

Do you see the link that says “Create a New Site?” Click on that.

Create a new site in WP multisite
Create a new site in WP multisite

Protip: if you want your fanlisting emails to go to the same email, use the same email address for each site you add. There’s no need to create separate identities.

Continue adding your sites until everything is in your multisite.

There are several ways to access the list of fanlistings you have hosted on collective. You can use the drop-down menu in the top bar (see below):

My collective!
My collective!

Or, you could choose the link in the side menu too:

Alphabetized is so pleasing to the eye.
Alphabetized is so pleasing to the eye.

Populating Your Individual Listings with Content

  1. WordPress themes make it easy to customize your site on the fly. However, since you’re still setting everything up, I would stay with the default theme. You have plenty of time to customize, so your goal here should be to get your site up.
  2. Think about the Pages that you’re going to want for your listing. I tend to use the same Pages over and over again and you probably already have them on your site: About, Affiliates, Buttons, Contact, Extras, Fans, Join, Shop, Update. Create them so that they already exist.
  3. If you want to save yourself some time, use these shortcodes on the following pages:

Contact (only if you’re using NinjaForms):

[ninja_form id=1] 

Affiliates (only if you’re using LinkView):

[linkview]

Join

[pdb_signup]

Edit / Update

[pdb_record]

Fans / Members’ List

[pdb_list]

This is how it looks using Gutenberg:

Example of the Gutenberg shortcode using the linkview snippet in the dashboard
Example of the Gutenberg shortcode using the linkview snippet in the dashboard

Personalizing Participants Database

The plugin authors include a useful Setup Guide with your plugin installation. Feel free to use it to familiarize yourself with the verbiage you’re going to see when you build everything. You don’t have to follow it closely but it’s a great starting point.

There is a lot of customization with the Participants Database plugin. It’s intuitive but I concede that it can be overwhelming for a casual fanlisting owner. So, for the purposes of owning a collective, I’m going to focus on what’s most important to keep your listing running smoothly.

However, I strongly encourage you to play around with the settings as you see fit. These are my preferred options but there’s a lot of options to fiddle around with here. Don’t be afraid to color outside of the lines. That’s what makes the plugin so great for doing what we want it to do.


Step 1. You may need to scroll down or expand the menu but go to Participants Database > Settings. It’ll bring up this screen:

PDB dashboard
PDB dashboard

The only ones relevant to your set up on this tab are:

  • Make Links Clickable
  • Protect Email Addresses
  • Mark Required Fields

Make sure you tick the boxes and Save Settings when you’re satisfied with the options.


Step 2. Click on Signup Form Settings. This is the form where you’ll collect a new fan’s information.

You can personalize this however you’d like. Play around with the options and see what suits you.

I would say watch out for these options:

  • Duplicate Record Check Field: Email
  • Duplicate Record Preference: Show a validation error message
  • Send Signup Response Email: tick the box
  • Signup Email From Name: use the name of your fanlisting
  • Signup Response Email Subject: [your fanlisting name] Welcome!
  • Signup Response Email:
Be concise, be wordy.
Be concise, be wordy.
  • Send Signup Notification Email: tick the box
  • Signup Notification Email Subject: [your fanlisting name] new fan
  • Signup Notification Email:
signup notification email
signup notification email

Don’t forget to Save Settings before you move to a new tab! PDB doesn’t have an autosave feature so you’ll lose your preferences. Get into the habit of selecting it right away if you’ve made a change in the tab. If you forget, PDB will prompt you to manually save before you leave the screen.


Step 3. Select Record Form Settings. This form is where already listed fans can update the information they signed up with of their own accord. You can set the options to be notified when they do.

My recommendations for personalizations:

  • Participant Record Page: Update (or whatever you named your edit record page)
  • Send Record Form Update Notification Email: tick the box
  • Record Update Email Subject: [your fanlisting name] updated info
  • Record Update Notification Email:
Record update notification email
Record update notification email

Step 4. Now it’s time to personalize how fans look on your site. Select the List Display Settings tab.

  • Single Record Page: Fans (or whatever you named the page)
  • Show Count: tick the box
  • List Default Sort: First Name

Step 5. Now you can check out Resend Link Settings. This is the option that lets fans receive an email link that leads to their personalized update page for your listing.

My customizations:

  • Enable Lost Private Link: tick the box
  • Lost Private Link Text: Misplaced your welcome email? Click here to have it emailed to you.
  • Lost Private Link Page: Join (or whatever your signup page is named)
  • Send Lost Private Link Notification Email: tick the box

Step 6. Admin Settings is what you see in the fanlisting’s PDB dashboard.

Here’s what works for me:

  • Admin List Default Sort: Date recorded
  • Admin List Default Sort Order: descending
  • Admin Record Edits are Validated: tick the box

Step 7. The last tab is Advanced Settings is just like it sounds, extra options that didn’t fit in the previous tabs but are still essential to the successful usage of the plugin.

Tick these boxes and make these changes if they’re not already defaulted (if you want):

  • Use the Plugin CSS
  • Use Rich Text Editor
  • Primary Email Address Field: Email
  • Send HTML Email
  • Enable AJAX Search Functionality

Customize the WordPress Frontend

There are still a few things for you to personalize for your individual fanlisting.

Create a menu in Dashboard > Appearance > Menus. I try and include Home, About, Buttons, Join (Update as a suboption), Fans, Extras, and a link back to TFL.

Again, like everything here, you’re free to name your Pages differently. But when you join a fanlisting these are the links that you’re typically going to find on a listing.

The menu structure for my Daft Punk fanlisting
The menu structure for my Daft Punk fanlisting

You’ll want to customize your contact form. You don’t need a contact form but I think they’re handy. I love Ninja Forms because it’s so easy to use. And it’s free! You can’t go wrong there. There was a bit of a learning curve for me but once I got the hang of it, I can customize it in my sleep now.

Ninja Forms: contact form
Ninja Forms: contact form

Adding buttons is easy. Use a Gutenberg gallery block and upload your buttons all at once. Don’t crop images. Separate them by size. If someone donates buttons, you can easily add to the already created gallery.

Let WordPress control your Links. That’s why I use LinkView; it displays them in a vertical position.

The Link Checker plugin is just like it sounds. When you’re pruning the listing of dead links, it does the work for you. Since TFL only requires a country, you could easily edit those dead links out manually. I believe a link should be mutual. It’s good SEO anyways.

Even if you’re in the U.S. (as I am), you should strongly consider adding verbiage to acknowledge the GDPR. You’re welcome to modify mine to your liking:

Your submission of this form means that you understand your data will be treated consistent with this site’s privacy policy.


Final Words

It’s easy to go through the Theme Database at WordPress, rather than trying to build a theme from scratch. If you choose the right theme, then you can customize it in the Customizer with the graphics you made of your subject easily.

All in all, I know that this was a lot to take in! But this is a solution that I’m delighted to share with other fanlisting owners. It’s worked for me, it’s working for me, and I see no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy it too.

So long as WordPress and PDB exist (and I don’t expect either to throw in the towel anytime soon), you don’t have to worry about anything sunsetting and being left scrambling for another fan management script.

I’m happy to clarify and provide light support to anything that I’ve written here. I’ll be updating this post as time goes on if people notice something amiss or it needs to be made clearer.

Comment below or shoot me an email. I’ll try and respond promptly, but please give me a few days. I may need to do some light research of my own to figure out how to help you in the best way.

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